4 MARCH 2019


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Article from BTNews 4 MARCH 2019


Tomorrow, Tuesday (5 March), transport secretary Chris Grayling MP will give a keynote speech at the AOA annual dinner.

Karen Dee joined the Airport Operators Association (AOA) as chief executive on 1 March 2017. She has more than 20 years’ experience in policy development, communications and representation activities within the transport sector, incorporating roles in government, consultancy and trade associations including the Department for Transport and the CBI.


"Later this week, we will see many BTN readers at the AOA Annual Dinner – the biggest aviation event in the air transport calendar. It will be a special occasion for us, not only because it is 85 years since the Airport Operators Association was founded but also because it will be the last Annual Dinner for our chairman, Ed Anderson, who is standing down after eleven years in the role.

2019 is not just an AOA anniversary, but also one for aviation as a whole. 100 years ago, the first UK commercial flight took place, heralding a new age. Aviation has changed beyond recognition since then. While only a few people travelled by air each year, last year saw nearly 300 million people travelling through UK airports. As the Government now develops its Aviation Strategy 2050, it is worth reflecting on how we take the next steps in our industry’s story.

In its 100 years, aviation has brought untold benefits: from enabling people to have well-deserved holidays to supporting a thriving UK business community, ranging from tourism to exports. As the Government outlines in its Green Paper, demand for travel is only going to grow: an estimated 435 million passengers will want to travel in 2050. That is not unsurprising, not least as aviation will be crucial to providing the necessary connectivity for a truly Global Britain after Brexit.

Meeting that growing demand for aviation is a major opportunity for us as an industry. It will deliver more jobs as we create the connectivity that will deliver opportunities for UK businesses and for passengers. However, we cannot deliver on this opportunity alone. For example, capacity growth – be that airspace modernisation, lifting of planning caps at individual airports, new terminals or even new runways – requires clear direction from Government. Lack of clarity could lead to indecision and major delays to the necessary upgrades of our infrastructure on the ground and in the sky.

Similarly, surface access improvements to airports are vital to ensuring everyone can get their journey started smoothly, reducing air quality impacts and providing more sustainable travel options. Public transport improvements are particularly important in that context. That requires national and local government to work closely with transport providers. Yet despite that need for a partnership to deliver the expected growth, the aviation connectivity and capacity growth necessary to meet demand sometimes appears to be taken for granted in the Aviation Strategy Green Paper.

Clearly, there will be environmental conditions attached to any future growth of aviation. We know the impact fossil fuels have on our environment and the impact of noise on communities. Our licence to grow depends on the industry being able to do that sustainably. Immense progress has already been made. The aircraft entering service today are an order of magnitude quieter than their predecessors and use less fuel to cover the same distances – reducing both cost and emissions.

Airlines, airports and aerospace manufacturers will continue to invest in operational improvements and new technology, from exciting innovation like sustainable aviation fuels through to electric aircraft. Many of these initiatives are supported by the Government, e.g. through the new Aerospace Sector Deal and the Future Flight challenge. It’s vital that the Aviation Strategy closely aligns with these and helps industry go even further. If that materialises, we will have a true partnership with Government for sustainable growth.

As we prepare aviation for the next 100 years, supported by thriving airports and great industrial innovation, the Aviation Strategy needs set out clearly the benefits aviation growth can bring to the UK and how Government will support the industry to deliver that growth in a sustainable way. An Aviation Strategy that provides that will stand the test of time".


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